3 months on, no relief for victims of social boycott in Chikhaldongari village
Not only have the fines not been returned, but the victims are being abused and harassed by panchayat members, and their rickshaws and vehicles are being destroyed
Mumbai: When news emerged in November 2023 of the social boycott of five families in Virar’s in Chikhaldongari village, the caste panchayat which decided to ostracise and levy fines on the families was dissolved, and refunds were promised to those who had paid up. But three months down the line, not only have the fines not been returned, but the victims are being abused and harassed by panchayat members, and their rickshaws and vehicles are being destroyed.
On Friday, Umesh Vaiti and Darshan Meher, who had paid ₹70,000 and ₹40,000 in fines respectively, lodged a written complaint with the Arnala Sagari police station after panchayat members allegedly vandalised Vaiti’s auto rickshaw and abused both him and Meher.
“It was a matter of great joy when the caste panchayat was abolished and we were promised a refund. But three months have passed, and still, the process has not been completed,” said Vaiti.
Though the complaint was received by police, no FIR was registered. “I lodged the complaint at the Arnala Sagari police station, but the police officials did not take the matter seriously,” said Vaiti.
Chikhaldongari village in Virar has a large number of people from the Mangela community. Five families from the community including that of Vaiti and Meher were ostracised and fined for various reasons. After HT reported about the matter last November, 17 people were booked under the Social Exclusion Act. The tehsildar of Vasai also held meetings in the village to create awareness and convince villagers that ostracisation was illegal. The panchayat was dissolved after a public apology and refunds were promised to those who had paid fines.
When contacted, the Arnala police said that they had received the villagers’ complaints. “We will investigate the matter and take action,” said Vijay Patil, senior police inspector, Arnala Sagari police station.